As we approach the first anniversary of a remote working environment that most businesses have adopted since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is safe to say a lot of us have become virtual conferencing experts (or at least we’d like to think so). The pandemic appears to be a continued obstacle for us again in 2021 and there may be a few conference tricks in the book we can all add to our repertoire this upcoming year to up our game even more.
How we project ourselves and the strategies we employ are different depending upon the hats we wear, whether we are a potential customer, employee, manager, boss, or a student. For some people depending on their specific role, they may wear more than one hat and it can become cumbersome to manage virtual communications for all of these different roles.
Many companies have completely made the transition to a remote workforce, requiring employees to quickly learn new strategies and processes. Not only did millions of employees have to learn how to navigate new technologies and communication practices, but they were also challenged with other home changes such as homeschooling children due to school and daycare closure. The lack of an adequate home workspace, technical difficulties, and the overall challenge of separating work and home life creates stress on individuals.
We’ve all heard the same tips reiterated over and over, such as making sure we look professional and presentable on camera, separating time in between calls to avoid burn-out, and assuring enough preparation time to conduct a productive meeting. However, adding personal touches including a virtual branded background or a scenic view that can create a calming effect is sometimes overlooked. Reach out to your co-workers and/or your marketing department for suggestions, and in the meantime make sure your background is tidy. An organized, clean, and tidy home environment not only presents an organized image to viewers, but it also makes for a pleasing environment to work in productively. However, life’s unpredictable moments do not always make this possible which is why establishing a manageable daily routine should be a priority. Begin your day as you normally would as if commuting into the office, rise at the same time and perform normal tasks to get ready. Although suits and formal attire may not be necessary, keeping a business casual dress code will maintain motivation and prevent embarrassment should an impromptu business meeting occur.
An important aspect to remember when adjusting to work from home is that for most people, this is new to them too. We are in this together. It is important to start viewing working from home as the new business normal and no longer as just a temporary solution.
At ANS Advanced Network Services, we have added some light-hearted fun moments into the agenda of our bi-weekly company-wide meetings presented by Paul Fettuccia, President and General Manager. Incorporating a digital name selector wheel that selects an ANS employee name for a small prize breaks up the serious tone and adds team camaraderie. Requesting employees to submit pet, holiday, ANS garb and ANS site photos to share are some other ideas that our team has enjoyed. We share the photos compiled into a collage on subsequent company meetings and feedback has been great! Employees enjoy sharing.
With the close of 2020, in-person holiday parties were unfortunately not possible, however, a select team put their heads together to create the first-ever virtual ANS Holiday Social Hour. With our Zoom conferencing platform, we included three themed break-out rooms; first up was a music & chat room, the second was a comedy skit room, and last up was a game room. Participation and feedback were very positive, and we plan on incorporating more of these kinds of virtual social gatherings in 2021.
Sales and Marketing departments in the past have always been involved with trade shows and in-person events, however, due to the pandemic, events have been canceled and continue to be postponed indefinitely. Virtual events continue to grow in popularity while at the same rate the challenge to keep the engagement level high rises. Hosting smaller, more intimate virtual events such as lunch and learns creates a focused virtual event without bogging down one’s time.
To personalize your company’s invitation to a virtual event, include an e-card to a coffee house or lunch favorite to your attendees. Since the days of face-to-face events are off-limits, incorporating a small token of such can personalize your meeting and brighten someone’s day while keeping the tone casual.
Remember, everyone is in this together. We all have the same daily home and work balance challenges and struggles. Let's make the best of this challenging time by staying productive as best as we can. Stay strong and safe.
Remember, the ever popular quote from 2020 "your on mute"!